31 October 2006

Trick or drive!

From Philly.com this story about the difficulties of Halloween has to be read to be believed. Especially the bit about how hard the holiday is on "those whose closest neighbor is a three- or four-minute walk away"!

Three or four minute walk! Is that too much to ask! Mum and Dad have to drive them then! WTF!

This other quote from a mother wound me up as well: "It takes too long to walk up the long driveways. By the time you do two houses, you're tired."

Nope Americans aren't getting lazy. No way!

Referenda - all I see are referenda!

I have an old friend who used to work in polling and public opinion research and always used to tell me that one consistent "negative indicator" (one who will always vote or chose outside the mainstream) was better than a hundred who generally went the way of public opinion.

In that light I present, via the Concerned Women for America, a guide (PDF) as to how to vote on various state referenda in next week's election. I checked myself against their recommendations and they are, as far I am concerned, 100% wrong. Therefore if you just go against their position I reckon you'll do alright!

Science ruins everything

First they tried to ruin the bible by telling us that the earth isn't 6,000 years old or that man didn't coexist with dinosaurs.

Now scientists are trying to ruin Halloween by "proving" that ghosts and vampires don't exist.

What is wrong with these scientists and why can't they just leave us alone?

"Very real consequences"

That is what Downing Street says British troops in Iraq face if the government loses a vote tonight calling for an enquiry into the Iraq war.

I'm sorry but I happen to think that British (and American troops) have been facing very real consequences all along. I believe that facing death and serious injury every day due to the inept and illegal policies of your government is a very real experience indeed.
Perhaps Bush and Blair should try it. I'm sure it would be an enlightening experience for both of them!

It's not as if the US government is running record defecits and needs the money or anything

The US government has dropped claims against Chevron for millions of dollars it had claimed that the oil giant had systematically under paid for natural gas extraction from the Gulf of Mexico. Explaining why the government gave up without a fight spokesmen said that they had "no choice but to drop their order to Chevron because a department appeals board had ruled against auditors in a separate case". This is despite the fact that state governments and private individuals have won back over 70 million USD in similar cases.

This latest gift to the energy industry follows the admission earlier in the year that companies would escape "7 billion (USD) in payments because of mistakes in leases signed in the 1990s". Well I'm sure they need the money!

Go ahead call me paranoid

I just wonder what the government's ulterior motive for this could be. I guess they've worked out that data only become information when humans have access to them and that it is information, as opposed to data, that is dangerous. Do they ever do ANYTHING that is in the public, as opposed to the corporate, interest?

Religious bigotry unveiled

Bob Maginnis, a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel, believes that the US government should be cautious about admitting Muslim students to the US Military Academy. In his own words:

"If you believe in the inerrancy of the Koran and that you embrace jihad in a militaristic fashion, and you believe in the coming Caliphate -- the domination of Islam across the world -- and your personal obligation [to it] -- that, in fact, might be contradictory to the best interests of the United States."

With a few alterations it says this:

"If you believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and that you embrace proselytising
in a militaristic fashion, and you believe in the coming Rapture -- the domination of Christianity across the world -- and your personal obligation [to it] -- that, in fact, might be contradictory to the best interests of the United States."

Would he agree with those words? I doubt it.

Graduate study on the cutting edge

Next year the School of Geography at the University of Leeds is going to offer a Master of Arts degree in Activism and Social Change.

From the course overview:

Activism and Social Change is an innovative and original interdisciplinary programme of research-led teaching and participatory study that brings together the worlds of academia and progressive social campaigning. It is led by academics working and researching with social movement organisations and communities; they are at the cutting edge of Geography's tradition of disciplinary involvement with social justice, a tradition that dates back at least to the early 1970s and runs stronger than ever today.

The programme's originality lies in four areas:
1) its intellectual attachment to the concept of 'autonomy', which in its radical understanding is the belief in society organised collectively through the practice of self-management, mutual aid and direct democracy;

2) its integration of social and environmental themes and issues, distinguishing it from other programmes in Britain, which focus on one element or the other;

3) its direct collaboration with NGOs, campaign groups and social entrepreneurs who will work alongside the programme coordinators to explore the ideas, practices and geographies of activism and social change;

4) its integrated provision of training for academic research and special skills training for work as a practitioner in NGOs and social movements.

Main course features
The main features of the programme can be summarised as follows:

An exploration of the core ideas in radical and transformatory social theory (see module: Spaces of Radical Thought module);

An overview of global social movement struggles with particular reference to anti-systemic and neo-colonial struggles in the Global South (Empire and Resistance);

Contemporary political debates about alternatives to neoliberal development and the critical challenges we face (Autonomous Futures);

Qualitative and quantitative research methods training relevant to campaigning and social change with strong emphasis on conducting Action Research with social movements and campaign groups (Researching for Social Change);

An introduction to key strategic debates and skills within the practitioner community through guest lectures and workshops by journalists, campaigners, researchers and activists (Campaigning for Social Change);

Work and campaign placements based around course themes;

An innovative portfolio of Masters-level assessments relevant to activism and social change including: campaign diaries; web-design; project plans; film; and extended action-research dissertations.

The MA has been carefully designed to respond to two related aims: the first is to provide a particular experience in training for research in university or similar arenas; and the second is to deliver knowledge and skills required by social movements, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), environmental and political campaigns, and other civil society groups such as trade unions and think tanks.

This masters programme offers a unique and integrated set of modules: two ESRC recognised research methods training modules (qualitative and quantitative) delivered between Geography and the School of the Environment; a theoretical module designed to engage students with important radical thinkers whose works and ideas are essential knowledge for students taking the programme; a conceptual module on empire and case studies of resistance struggles from around the world; modules on researching and campaigning skills directly focused on activism and organisations involved in social campaigning; a more praxis oriented module focusing on strategies for implementing ideas; and finally an action research Dissertation through which students will undertake a substantive independent research project.

It should lead to some interesting dissertations but if you want a cosy nine-to-five job with lots of holiday and a good pension it probably isn't the course for you. Do you think that David Horwitz would approve? (Note: It thought linking to an al-Jazeerah editorial about Horowitz was a nice touch don't you thinkn?)

Calling time on K Street

The Washington Post suggests that, should Nancy Pelosi become the speaker of the house, the rules on Congressional lobbying stand to be significantly tightened. Oh, and that the lobbyists are none to happy with this.

While it would take time as well as Senate consent and a Presidential signature to change federal law as regards lobbying the House of Representatives can change its own rules by a simple majority vote and that Pelosi plans just that. Among other things receipt of gifts including flights from lobbyists or firms that employ lobbyists would be forbidden.

Not a moment too soon in my estimation!

Don't forget to say your prayers

I didn't know God cared about American politics but apparently she does! A Catholic association is sponsoring an "election novena" to make sure that she votes properly. The web site includes a "prayer for our national elections" which instructs god to instruct the faithful to "exercise (their) solemn duty not only to vote, but to influence countless others to vote, and to vote correctly".

And do they know how to vote correctly? Oh yes they do! They also include special prayers for:

  • California - "Give our citizens the wisdom to support Proposition 85, so that minors may not fall victim to the abortion industry"
  • Oregon - "Give our citizens the wisdom to support Measure 43, so that minors may not fall victim to the abortion industry"
  • South Dakota - "May (they) uphold the law that will restore protection to their children,
    and may you hasten the day when that protection will sweep our entire nation"
  • Missouri - "Grant that your people may reject Amendment 2 and the harm that it would bring to Missouri and to the nation"
It is reassuring that god is so involved in the matters of a handful of American states that she even knows the numbers of the ballot initiatives while the rest of the world goes down the drain.

Tony Blair - beautiful dreamer

Tony Blair wants to see a new, global climate deal in place by the end of 2008.

I want to be tall and devastatingly handsome.

Which is more likely I wonder?

It will be hard enough to get the rest of the world in line in two year's time. How he expects to get a United States with a lame duck President (emphasis on lame) and a probably hostile Congress on board is beyond me.

Perhaps it will be like Iraq when he got Bush to seek a new Security Council resolution but then to ignore the Security Council when they failed to submit to his imperial wishes.

It's good to have a dream, innit?

Nationalists to the fore!

Will Tony Blair lose in the Commons over calls for an inquiry into the Iraq war? It appears that he might as the Tories, the Liberal Democrats and up to forty Labour rebels are suggesting that they may support a motion put forward by the Scottish Nationalist Party and Plaid Cymru.

What would it mean if he does? Well for one thing it would entail the setting up of a commission similar to the Franks report into the Falklands War. Other than that it wouldn't be a comfortable situation for either Blair or Brown and could add to the ascendancy of Cameron's (New) Tories.

I also wonder what the last motion put forward by either the SNP or Plaid Cymru to pass was. That of course assumes there has been such a motion before!

Corporate transparency and why corporations don't think it's a good idea

One tiny little clause in a great big bill has got the business community in an uproar. The government amendment to the companies bill would require all UK listed companies to provide details about their supply chain and social responsibility in their annual reports.

Lined up against the provision are the Council for Business and Industry (CBI), the Institute of Directors (IoD) and Quoted Companies Alliance (QCA).

Never have so many initials opposed so few words. It is hard to see how they can stand!

Personally I don't think the provision goes nearly far enough. If we are to be educated consumers and use our behaviour to influence that holy of holies, "the market" (as I am sure all of the above wish us to do) then the provision should hold for limited companies (above a certain threshold of sales or capitalisation) as well as PLCs. How else can we make intelligent, informed decisions?

There's nothing wrong with Kansas

(Well OK I know that most of Kansas City is in Missouri.) None then less the Kansas City Star has a post in online journal entitled "PRO-CON: SHOULD THE HOUSE IMPEACH PRESIDENT BUSH?".

They answer that they should and for the following two high crimes and misdemeanours":
  • The president knowingly conspired to exceed his constitutional authority to wage war by falsifying intelligence and lying to the American people and Congress.
  • The president subverted democracy and his oath of office by conducting illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens, and violated international treaties by illegally torturing, kidnapping and detaining innocent people and ignoring rulings of the federal judiciary.
Remember Kansas actually has a radical and subversive historical tradition.

Defensive spin

The US Department of Defense is to launch a new "rapid response" PR campaign to ensure that Donald Rumsfeld keeps his job. Well, that's not actually what they said but it’s my spin on their spin.

The new system, became public in a memo from Dorrance Smith, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs which was obtained by the AP. It calls for new staff to "develop messages for the 24-hour news cycle and correct the record". How much time will they have to devote to correcting Faux News's faux facts?

I look forward to the new and improved news coverage that this will surely lead to. Just remember folks these are your tax dollars at work!

War on terra - Pakistan

Let's start with the facts not in dispute. The Pakistani military launched an attack on a school near the Afghan border yesterday which resulted in around eighty deaths.

Now onto the facts that are in dispute. The Pakistani military maintains that the madrasa was in actuality a terrorist training camp. Residents of the village where the attack took place contend that the dead were "children and religious seminarians".

Even the facts theoretically not in dispute, such as who actually fired the missiles, are openly being questioned with some in Pakistan asserting that the attack was really launched by NATO forces from across the border in Afghanistan. Irrespective of who launched the attack it is clear that it has had an unsettling effect on the truce between the Pakistani government and leaders in the tribal border area. However should it turn out that NATO did actually initiate the missle attack it will certainly damage relations with Pakistan that are already fragile.

The attack and the fear of unrest and reprisals related to it have also caused Prince Charles and the missus to cancel a visit to Peshawar as part of their royal visit. Imagine the disappointment in Peshawar at their loss.

30 October 2006

Attempted suicide attack in Iowa - no one notices!

Somehow unreported. A 45 year old white Christian drove his car into the Edgerton Women’s Health Center in Davenport Iowa, believing it to be an abortion clinic, and attempted to set it on fire.

Yes he is incompetent and probably deranged but how much coverage would the story have gotten if you substitute Muslim for Christian and synagogue for clinic?

Time for the quid pro quo

Tony Blair and his supporters often emphasis the need to stay close to the American government in order to have influence. Well he's stayed loyal throughout the Bush presidency often against the opinion of his party and the UK population as a whole. What does he have to show for it? Absolutely nothing.

Perhaps it is time to call in the markers. In light of the today's official release of the UK government's report on the economic consequences of climate change, authored by ex-World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern which estimates the costs of NOT ACTING on climate change to be in the range of 3.5 trillion USD this might be a propitious time to act. Bush's argument, if one can go so far as to call it that, has always been that he will not do anything to harm the American economy. Well if doing nothing harms the American and world economies to this extent perhaps he ought to do something.

Tony - time to sell him mate! (PS - if you're trying to sell Bush and the like on the need for a new treaty and urgent action signing up Al Gore as point person might have been the cleverest move. I think you'll need to do this personally. After all Mr. Gore probably doesn't use the same toothpaste that you and Dubya do!

If you can manage to sell this then, while it will not absolve you of your guilt over Iraq, it may go some way toward redeeming your "legacy".

The complete Stern commision report may be found here.

Why Italian politics will always be more interesting

Because they fight over stuff like this. Vladimir Luxuria is an MP for the Communist Refoundation Party which is a coalition member in Romano Prodi's government. He (she, it) is also a pre-op transsexual.

Elisabetta Gardini, of Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, complained after she ran into Ms. Luxuria in the ladies' room in parliament and said that she felt physically ill after the encounter. Forza Italia has called for the creation of "trans-gender" toilets to address the issue. Ms. Luxuria said that she had been using the "ladies' toilets for years".
Maybe Ms. Luxuria should become a minister and accompany Sr. Prodi on his next trip to the states. I wonder what she and Mrs. Bush might chat about whilst powdering their noses. Oh to be a fly on the wall!

The war on dissent

If anyone is nostalgic for the Nixon years (and who wouldn't be) this story should warm their hearts. More evidence has come to light that the FBI is monitoring the emails of anti-war groups in Maine. FBI records obtained through a freedom of information act request from the Maine ACLU included copies of emails associated with Maine Veterans for Peace and Peace Action Maine. It is always possible that these groups may have members with Asian names or funny beards in which case the surveillance is understandable.

"Hey buddy! Wanna buy a gun?"

Nearly 4% of weapons purchased by the US government for the Iraqi security forces have gone missing according to an audit. 13,180 semiautomatic pistols, 751 assault rifles and 99 machine guns could not be accounted for. Rumours that the weapons ended up in St. Louis MO should not be discounted at this time.

The sacred cows of Lewisham

Lying deep in the heart of south London Lewisham borough isn't exactly what first comes to mind when you think of good news (or innovative thinking for that matter) so I thought I ought to share this. In an attempt to get an uptake in recycling of waste the borough council painted its bins to looklike black and white cows and they have seen a 60% uplift. Kids seem to love to "fatten up the cows". It probably didn't cost a lot either.

Pity the poor little swimmers

It has been a bad month for the sperm of Western men. First there was the report that spending too much time on your mobile phone reduced the potency of your little guys. Now comes word that drinking coffee can effect your sperm count unfavourably as well. Not just girlie man cappuccino or latte but manly espresso as well. Next thing you know they will tell us that steroid use makes your balls shrink.

Oh and hamsters are more virile than we are as well.

Going the Pentagon's department of macho operations names one better

All hail the headline writers from the Independent on Sunday who have outdone the Pentagon at their own game with their name for the conflict in Iraq: Operation Enduring Chaos!

What better name for the continued military goings on in a country that is slowly, inexorably slipping into anarchy, civil war and mayhem.

My hat's off to you.

"No we're not"" - "Yes we are!"

Officially the UK government is not yet acting on a replacement warhead when the Trident missile system becomes obsolete in the not so distant future. In response to a written parliamentary question Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence, said that "the Atomic Weapons Establishment [AWE] is not engaged in the development of any new warheads". The government has also promised a debate before any work on a Trident replacement takes place.

However the scientists at Aldermaston seem to < href="http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article1938370.ece">think differently. There is also the argument, one that is considered trivial in American but which is taken more seriously here, as to whether the UK's commitment to disarmament, under the non-proliferation treaty, precludes any developmental work at all.

28 October 2006

Lose weight - live longer - save the planet

This should have been obvious but for some reason it wasn't. Fat people use more fuel. Obese people use a lot more fuel. Americans are using 3.8 billion (yes billion!) litres (just over a billion US gallons or about 800 million Imperial gallons) of fuel extra annually due to the increase in average weight since 1960. So here's some encouragement:
  • Lose weight- you'll use less fuel
  • Lose weight - you'll feel better
  • Lose weight - you'll (probably) look better
And if you get rid of the SUV / MPV / other gas guzzler and maybe walk instead of driving everywhere (this will also help with weight loss) you AND the planet will be even better off.

Anatole France has to be wrong

Because if he isn't then Bush&co should be smiling all the time!
A person is never happy except at the price of some ignorance.
-- Anatole France

May I measure your muscle please?

Cheshire is clearly a weird place first it was the clocks (see earlier post below) and now there is the case of "Purple Aki".

Akinwale Arobieke was released from prison this week after serving half of his six year term for "harassing boys under the age of 16 and of witness intimidation". As part of his release licence he was given a Sexual Offences Prevention Order (SOPO) despite never having been convicted of a sex offence. His is banned from entering Warrington.

"Under the bizarre terms of the order, he is banned from touching, feeling or measuring the muscles of anyone without their consent."

In related news Mr. Arobieke is considering emigrating to America and running for the Congressional seat vacated by Mark Foley.

Not exactly identical twins

I think this might be much harder to explain if there were only one child.

Pot, meet kettle

I wonder how the wing nuts will reacts to this. They're generally the first to jump up and down when anyone is compared to the Nazis. Will they accept it or ignore it from the Israeli PM?

At least Israel and Iran are united on one issue now though. Each of the them believes the other is a Nazi state! Can both of them be right?

Corporate to the core

Has Apple gone all corporate on us now? They seemed to have forced Greenpeace off their stand at the London MacExpo. Apple commented that other exhibitors complained about their stand.

Stock option scandals, manufacturing Ipods in Chinese sweatshops and now this; can they claim to be different than any other huge corporation anymore? Perhaps not.

Living in cloud cuckooland

Two brothers have a museum in Cheshire devoted to cuckoo clocks. Because they have more than five hundred clocks in the museum the end of British Summertime tomorrow morning winds them up. (I get wound up for different reasons.)

I say to them; "Go digital"!

Diebold's AccuHack machine

There have been many problems already reported with the security surrounding electronic voting. Now we are told that mini bar keys can be used to open the access panels on Diebold's AccuVote-TS.

That's the good news. The bad news is that once you've opened it up you're automatically charged $12.50 for a tinny of Budweiser and $4.50 for a 30 gram packet of Beer Nuts!

Lucy as propoganda

If you thought that the American museum tour of the fossilised remains of a human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, known as Lucy was just to afford Americans the opportunity to see remains of one of the oldest known hominids and to learn about evolution.

We you would be wrong. Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis enlightens us:

"When I see that they're bringing the most famous of the supposed 'human ancestor' fossils to America, and they're going to feature it across America, I can see this is a big push for evolution.

"There's a lot of evidence that goes against Lucy being upright and as a human ancestor and so on. We'll see Lucy portrayed in a particular way...trying to tell the American public that this is your human ancestor and that this is fact. And they won't put all the information in there that contradicts that."

He also refers to evolution as "anti-creationist hype". Good. I'm glad that's settled then.

Dick Cheney ♥'s Halloween

I'm not talking about the fact that the vice-President is just plain spooky. I'm referring to Tony Snow's listen-to-what-he-says-not-what-he-means clarification of the Vice President's remarks on water boarding yesterday.

Just a reminder of the issue when Cheney was asked in an interview if "a dunk in water is a no-brainer if it can save lives" he replied "well, it's a no-brainer for me...We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."

Thank heavens Presidential spokesmodel Tony Snow cleared things up for us.

"You know as a matter of common sense that the vice president of the United States is not going to be talking about water boarding. Never would, never does, never will."

From now on all we have to when we hear a politician say something that we know they are not stupid enough to actually say even though we just heard them say it is to realise, using our "common sense", that they didn't actually say what we just heard.

I feel much better knowing, that with Halloween coming up, when he heard "dunk in the water" Dick was actually thinking of everyone's favourite autumnal party game Bobbing for Apples!

The longest day

Early tomorrow morning the clocks go back an hour making Sunday the longest day, at twenty five hours, the longest day of the year. So it's time for my annual whinge. Allegedly the change is to provide light in the morning which it does for about three weeks and then it's dark in the morning and the evening. The other rationalisation, generally from the agricultural community, is that changing to European time will upset the cows. Somehow, I think, they will get over it.

So why do we bother? Portugal is west of England but they are on European time so why not us?

Well it won't change this year so tomorrow at five PM it will be dark and depressing. Is this worth it so that it is light at half seven in the morning for a few weeks? I think not.

Left relying on the Lords

Yesterday Alan Johnson backtracked on government plans to ensure a measure of integration in religious schools after significant pressure from the Christian community largely the Catholic Church.

Today we find that is it possible that the House of Lords will try to reinstate the provision in the education bill. Unfortunately it seems to be for the wrong reasons i.e. fear of the potential influence of Islamic schools. I don't go so far as to suggest that Lord Baker is Islamiphobic but some might. The British Humanist Association is supporting the effort. Strange bedfellows.

The only true way to address the problem is the total removal of religious schools from the public education sector. This then provides faith schools the latitude to discriminate in selection and curriculum while still providing a measure of public subsidy in the form of charitable status.

Perhaps there is hope

If the South African government can finally see the lights on HIV/Aids perhaps there is hope that the US government will take steps to address its continuing obfuscation on climate change or its baffling inability to see the reality "on the ground" in Iraq.

It is only hope but that's all we have to work with.

27 October 2006

Flushing the economic toilet

Are bad times coming on the US economic front? Maybe Americans just can't borrow any more. US growth "plummets unexpectedly" to the lowest rate in three years. Dollar falls. Oil price up.

It's a good thing there's no such thing as climate change because if there were it could cause a global recession.

Does your firewall dress to the right?

You're in the US Army in Iraq. You've just come in from patrol and want to unwind by trolling some political sites on the internet just to see what is up.

You decide start with the wing nut side of the blogosphere and head over to everyone's favourite anti-immigration Filipina Michelle Malkin. No problemo. You get right through only to find her shrieking about Islam, why is everyone picking on Rush Limbaugh and people who immigrated after her parents did. Nothing much new happening there.

Now it's time for some adolescent humour with a bit of a left wing twist. You head on over to check out Wonkette. Blocked? What do you mean blocked?

So no chance of soldiers in Iraq being able to get through to this site then I reckon.

Don't tell Borat!

Kazakhstan may be next in line for UN Security Council sanctions. It seems that they are about to open an uranium enrichment facility or three.

I mean if the Iranis can't enrich uranium why should the Kazakhs be able to. They're Muslims too! Isn't their national anthem Throw the Jew Down the Well?

Losing the real base

It should be obvious to most people now that right wing evangelists are only window dressing for the Republican party and as long as they allow themselves to be taken advantage of the Republicans will pump them for all they are worth.

So, you may ask, who is the real base of the Republican party then?

Business. Big business.

So they must find the news that business groups are suddenly cozying up to the Democrats (including gay Democrats) was be proving very unsettling to the likes of Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman. (I just noticed that if the Republicans appoint someone named Keith, Kenneth or Kirk to a position of importance they will have their own little KKK Klub!)

Building the most expensive embassy ever with illegal workers

If your government says it is too dangerous in Iraq and that your passport is not valid for entry into Iraq don't worry. You can still get a job building the US embassy in Baghdad because the Kuwait contractor building the new fortress, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, willingly violates US and international labour trafficking regulations. It's a good thing the American government is planning to build a fence around Iraq like it is for the Mexican border. They wouldn't be able to sneak the workers in!

First Kuwaiti's suspect business and labour practices have been suspect for some times.

Data mining & you

The Bush administration seems to never stop trying to find new and better ways to get into your knickers and see what's going on. After all they could be terror knickers

The office of the US Intelligence czar (not necessarily an intelligent czar), John Negroponte, is working on a project similar to the Total Information Awareness programme which was cancelled. The programme is now known as Tangram (not to be confuse with Beigegram or Ecrugram).

The only good news is that they don't seem to be making any real progress.

Hacked box voting

It would appear that the problems of the "hanging chad" are well and truly behind us. We have now moved on to new territory and the problems experienced in Florida in 2000 may seem like small potatoes before we are through with the November election cycle in America. After 3.8 million USD of federal money into updating voting systems and procedures it would appear that, while old problems may be reduced, the new problems are much worse.

We are already aware of Professor Edward Felton's hacking demonstration on television. Now the Guardian is reporting that the American election reform organisation Election Reform Information Project anticipates that there may be material difficulties in up to ten states including my own voting state, Pennsylvania. (I never did receive a printed absentee ballot. I can only hope that my write in ballot is accepted.)

The states that ERIP expects to have problems are Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington state.

ERIP's complete report (PDF) may be found here.

A Jeffinition (TM) - no. 2

Today's word is: FEARSTALGIA - (n.) - a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to the fears of one's youth, one's home or homeland; a sentimental yearning for the terrors of a former, but simpler, place or time.

An example of "fearstalgia" is to be found here.

All I want for Christmas....

...is a levitating bed. Nothing else. No socks. No after shave. Just the bed. A mere snip at 1.2 million euros! It is just way too cool. It would be perfect for these flats near Oude Haven in Rotterdam

Other expensive gadgets you won't be getting for Christmas may be found here.

Judge encourages contraception! God horrified

Better tell the wing nuts that a judge in Missouri is encouraging the use of contraception by adding a condition to a woman's probation agreement. The woman, Mandy Nelson, has to remain unpregnant or her probation will be revoked. I checked the Operation Rescue website but Judge Patrick Robb doesn't seem to be on their hit list as yet.

"I'm Dick Cheney and I approve this method"

Well at least it is out in the open. The official Vice-Presidential seal of approval has formally been given to torture in the form of waterboarding. The technique, which is essentially a simulation of drowning that the victim believes is real, is one of the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that American agents are now authorised to use during interrogation. When asked if waterboarding was an acceptable technique the indefatigable Mr. Cheney replied "it's a no-brainer for me". Given who his boss is he ought to know a thing or two about no brainers.

As the President once said exposing that US government is illegally tapping American phones without a court order is
"causes great harm to the United States...there is an enemy out there. They read newspapers."

I assume that the same logic applies to our interrogation techniques. If the enemy knows we are waterboarding won't they just train themselves to hold their breath?

Why does the Vice President want the terrorists to win?

Hey! Flag burners! Arrest them!

When is flag burning OK? When it's the flag of a country or organisation that we don't like.

Protestors in Farmington, New Mexico burned the UN flag to show their disquiet at the proposed UN small arms control treaty. The bloody UN didn't listen and passed a resolution authorising the start of work on a treaty regulating the international trade in small arms against US wishes. The US being the only country to oppose the resolution although other countries, largely arms exporters as well, abstained. The US prefers "voluntary" controls instead. They always work out so well!

Race for fifty first state heats up with discovery of eleventh commandment

For some time I have been recommending Poland as a candidate to become the 51st state of the USA. They now appear to have a rival in Nicuragua which has voted not only to outlaw all abortions but any operations which would save a woman's life if it would result in the termination of her pregnancy. Nice huh? The legislation was strongly supported by God (in the form of the Catholic Church). Penalties for woman who have abortions and doctors who perform them range from six to thirty years in jail. The upside of this law could be a mass migration from the American bible belt to the Managuan suburbs.

Poland, of course, is not taking the competition lying down and if fighting back with a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate rape and incest as grounds for abortion. The legislation was put forward by the League of Polish Families (LPR), a far right junior member of the coalition government. The rationale is explained by one of the party's MEPs, Professor Maciej Giertych:

"We are still not satisfied with the restrictions placed on abortion. We would like to see the restrictions cover life from conception, throughout pregnancy to birth. We do not want any exceptions. The current law allows exceptions for pregnancy which came from illegal sexual contact, i.e. incest or rape. There is no need to penalize the conceived children for the sins of the parents. There is also an exception which says that if the child is disabled, it should be killed. we want to protect the disabled from conception and not only from birth."

Mr. Giertych seems to have discovered an eleventh Christian commandment; "thou shalt not be raped or sexually abused".

Who the plaque fit

Bob Marley has been honoured with the first of the Mayor of London's heritage plaques. The plaque was unveiled at a block of flats in Camden Town were Marley lived in the 70s.

These new commemorative plaques which are blue should not be confused with the old combative plaques which are also blue. Confused yet? I am.

Good news, not good enough

The gap in salaries between men and women in the UK is at its lowest level ever. The gap has fallen to 12.6% from 13% in the past year. Good news but there is still quite a ways to go.

Some things however haven't improved. Average salaries increased by 3% over the same period but boardroom pay was up 28%. In the top 20% of the income scale the man / woman pay gap widened as the increase in men's pay at the top outstripped that of women.

26 October 2006

But will they corner the market on "Jesus of the toast"?

jesus The internet is constantly bringing us new and intriguing ways to stimulate the economy through spending our money. The new auction website, http://homeschoolbuy.com/index.php? has now launched offering products targeted at the home schooling and Christian markets. It is apparently a direct challenge to Ebay since Ebay stopped accepting the teacher editions of textbooks.

Unfortunately a search for jesus+toast as yet yields nothing. Oh well, they're only new!

I must say that the products available for auction featured on the homepage don't really remind me of either home schooling or Christianity. The include Cinnamon Bun Candle soywax (whatever it is it is currently under offer for 5 USD!), BERRY MAGICAL STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE! (no offers), Josef Lidl 3/4 Violin (no offers), Personalized Homework System (no offers) and, last but not quietest, 3 BRAND NEW BOOM BLASTERS INSTRUMENTS! (no offers).

Well. What are you waiting for? Get cracking folks.

A moment of slapstick

I was walking down the High Street this morning when a young bloke, early twenties, asks me if I know where he can catch a bus to Corydon. Continuing to walk I say "Yes" and look ahead of me to point in the direction he needs to go. I turn back to him to offer a few directions and he seems to have vanished. I stop and look back. He was, it seems, looking at me rather than where he was walking and walked smack into a sign post. He is now sitting on his arse on the pavement with his nose bleeding.

In my defence I didn't start to laugh until he was laughing himself.

Promises schmomises

Israel promises the US government a halt to (illegal) settlement activity in the occupied territories.

Israel breaks promise.

Israel forgets to tell US of broken promise.

US forgets to ask.

Democrats underrepresented!

Damn the media. Rolling Stone has a feature piece on the the "Worst Congress Ever" and the have only awarded one spot to a Democrat in their list of the 10 worst congressmen. The only consolation I can take from the article is that I am personally represented by number 8 who is none other than the currently under investigation "Krazy" Kurt Weldon!

And what is Rolling Stone's assessment of the PA 7th district race you may well ask. "Stick a Fork In Him, He’s Weldon". Tee hee!

They should have built the fence 15,000 years ago

News is being reported that ancient human footprints have been found in Cuatro Cienegas in Mexico. The fossilised specimens are estimated to be ten to fifteen thousand years old. (Of course, we know this is impossible as the earth is less than six thousand years old.)

What the reports fail to tell us is that the footprints were heading north without appropriate documentation and that they were planning to steal jobs, education and health care from good, patriotic American footprints north of the Rio Grande.

Fancy dress

Everyone's favourite ghoul, Ann Coulter, decides to be seasonal and criticises Democrats for planning to go trick or treating as "patriots" while she claims that they are incapable of actually being patriots largely because they refuse to agree with her.

This from a woman who spends most of her time in the disguise of a dominatrix.

(Oh, I see, perhaps it isn't a disguise. Yuck. Now I've gone all nauseous. )

"Man on dog" makes a desperate but empty jesture

(Soon to be) ex-Senator Santorum (wing nut - PA) has, it seems, signed the so called Fair Judiciary Oath. For the remaining 90 days or so of his employment by the people of Pennsylvania he has committed himself to seeing

"that everyone duly nominated to serve on the federal judiciary gets a fair confirmation process, including the following:

1) Nominees reaching the Senate floor shall get a timely up or down vote free from substantial delay, including filibuster;

2) If I serve on the Judiciary Committee, I will oppose any arbitrary obstacles that would prevent nominees moving out of committee, absent clear evidence of disqualification."

This will clearly make all the difference.

The less than 2% solution

I fail to see why folks are losing trust in members of the US Congress because nine of them are under investigation. That only comes to 1.6%. What's the big deal?

The Koreans are coming (snigger)

North Korea has a "happy bomb". In America the Republicans are using this to stoke the climate of fear ad justify spending on "star wars" and a new generation of nuclear weapons. There is, however, another country with more at stake in this crisis than the US. South Korea. How are they reacting to the news?

Apparently they're too busy shagging to notice. Condom sales are up by nearly a third, "love motels" are overbooked and brothels are heaving.

I think they've got the right idea!

Support gays! Shop Wal-mart

Our friends at the American Family Association are shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that entering terms such as "gay", "lesbian", "transgender," "bisexual," and "gay marriage" into the Wal-Mart search function yields literally thousands of products. Obviously this means that Wal-Mart is supporting homosexuality and therefore is urging their supporters to express their concern.

Well. I am shocked too so I thought I would do some research myself and by God they are right. These are my results:
  • "Gay" - 1191 products - top sellers - the American Girl Movie collection, Spacecowboys (widescreen version) & Bad News Bears (2005)
  • "Lesbian" - 510 products - top sellers - Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples (with CD), Beyond Acceptance: Parents of Lesbians & Gays Talk about Their Experiences & Best Lesbian Love Stories 2005
  • "Transgender" - 40 products - Policy Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Families, The Riddle of Gender: Science, Activism, and Transgender Right & Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender College Students: A Handbook for Faculty and Administrators
  • "Bisexual" - 38 products -Policy Issues Affecting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Families, From Here to There - John Oszajca & Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender College Students: A Handbook for Faculty and Administrators
  • "Gay marriage" - 26 items - What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage , Gay Marriage (book) & Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry
Pretty scary stuff. After all no one should be forced to see the Bad News Bears (2005)!

America's Wankerman

I refer to none other then the oxycontin snorting, viagra swallowing, self-crowned, bloated king of right wing radio. Has he gone too far even for his in bred, salivating, brain damaged fan base by insinuating that Michael J. Fox was faking his condition in a TV ad me had filmed for a Democratic candidate? I doubt it. They live for this rubbish. They will never allow truth, honesty or just plain human decency get in the way of a good ad hominem attack. Am I in danger of accustaionts of being elitist if I suggest that there must be some way to eliminate Rush listeners from the voter registration lists? Maybe they have names that sound like criminals (or idiots!).

Rush is also living (I think) proof that satire as an art form is endangered. I mean which is weirder the reality or the satire?

Additonal thoughts on Luis Posada

When I wrote about Luis Posada yesterday I forgot to mention how little coverage this seems to get in that damn "liberal" American media.

Searches in major US newspapers yield the following:
  • NY Times - 3 articles in the past 180 days in which he is described various as Cuban militant, Cuban exile etc. Only 1 article in the last 180 days for Luis Posada + terrorist
  • Washington Post - 6 articles in the past 60 days again described as a militant, Castro opponent etc. 5 results for Luis Posada + terrorist
  • LA Times - one article in the past 180 days which meets both criteria
  • Miami Herald - 18 for Luis Posada in last 180 days reduced to 13 when you include terrorist
  • Houston Chronicle - 29 in past 180 days variously described as an activist, militant et al reduced to 15 when terrorist is included in the search.
You'd think that they weren't proud to have a terrorist in custody!

It is easier for a rich man to get into heaven than for a cleaner to make a living working for Goldman Sachs

It is a good time to become a partner at Goldman Sachs. They have named a hundred new partners who are stand to "earn" around £5.3 million a year. The cleaners in their London offices make a little more than the minimum wage or approximately 1/500th of the wages of a partner. That of course assumes that they work full time, which they rarely do as then they would be able qualify for sick pay and paid holidays. They are usually restricted to fifteen hours per week or less which makes their pay about 1/1250th that of a partner.

It is good to see the market working so effectively, innit?

"There's light at the end of the ball game"

I'm of two minds. I can't decide whether President Bush's assertion yesterday that "we're winning and we will win" in Iraq reminds me more of


  • A baseball manger's press conference when he's down 3-0 in the World Series, away from home with his number five starter due to pitch and he tries to explain how his side is still in with a chance.
It could go either way because it's a "game of two halves".


I am going to have to go out and get a hold of the book Ghost Plane by Stephen Grey. The snippets from it that have made the press including the revelation that the CIA tried to silence criticism from the German government by offering the Germans access to one of their own nationals being held in Morocco. What was the offer? You can torture him on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and alternate Sundays? How bloody cynical do they have to be?

I wonder if Faux News has one of these

You may not realise it but buried away in a basement somewhere at BBC headquarters is the official BBC pronunciation unit! That's all well and good for TV presenters and news readers you say but what about me? How will I be able to impress my friends down at the Raving Queen if I don't know the correct RP of "Boadicea", "Van Gogh" or "al Qaida "?

Well you need worry no more. In conjunction with their friends at Oxford (which I am certain all members of the pronunciation team mush have attended) they have now released a book.

Your dinner parties will never be the same again!

Luxurious rendition

At the end of a hard day of throwing hoods over suspected terrorists, shoving them handcuffed and sedated into unmarked airplanes and twisting the arms of representatives of friendly governments a CIA agent has earned the right to kick back and relax in the lap of luxury. That is why we should not be surprised at news that those Yank agents assigned to the process of extraordinary rendition (is there such a thing as ordinary rendition?) seem to have five star tastes; from golf resorts in Palma de Majorca to three thousand USD a week hotel rooms in Milan to bottles of fine Spanish wine in crystal glasses for the ride home we should be proud that these heroic Americans are not to be outdone by James Bond of the British secret service. If they don't hire Aston Martin's I'm sure it is only through a heartfelt desire to "Rent American".

I, for one, am proud.

Note: it also turns out that they're stupid. The Italian police were able to track them down because they didn't cover their tracks very well, even ringing the US consulate in Milan 156 times from their hotel.

As nature makes fatter Americans, Americans make bigger toilets

Presenting this week's product of the week; the Great John Toilet from Laredo Texas. It has important features such as "Extra-Elongated, Extra-Wide seating area, yet it can be used by any sized person" (i.e. non-fat people can use it too - so if you're a mixed family you needn't be afraid of installing it!). Their "Why Buy a Great John Toilet" page goes even further, explaining that

"Standard designs are not meant to withstand a big person. For STABILITY, we designed a super wide base. To insure STURDINESS, we also added reinforcements into the base. Our toilets are tested to 2000 lb. To eliminate the problem of the SEAT SLIDING, we provide "Anti-Side" fins for safety. This also prevents pinching. Finally, GJ has added a second SET OF ANCHORS at the front sides of the base to increase protection against movement of the unit from the floor."

2000 pounds (909 kilos)? Even Americans aren't that fat yet but then a good business must always ensure that they plan for the future. Curiously they only have outlet in Texas (America's fattest state) but five in Connecticut. What gives?

Note: I notice that they seem to employ people of fairly normal dimensions but when it's time to advertise everything seems to get bigger.

25 October 2006

Ollie advises Nicaragua - or else

How did disgraced plotter Ollie North get a visa to get into Nicaragua? Do you think any foreign citizen who plotted to overthrow the US government, funded anti-government insurgents and financed international arms deals would ever get a US visa? I don't think so.

What would the US authorities do if Hugo Chavez came to this country to campaign for the Democrats? Well Ollie's in Nicaragua campaigning against Daniel Ortega.

I've saved the best bit for last. He has accused Latin American left wingers (in his world I suspect that a left winger is anyone who isn't actually a Nazi) of emulating "Adolf Hitler, ... using elections -- not revolutions or military coups -- to take and then solidify power. It's a tactic that seems to have escaped the striped-pants set in our State Department."

Damn them! Elections indeed. What will they think of next? Ban elections I say. All governments to be chosen at the pleasure of King George.

Who's been using the White House toaster....

...because it seems that G.W. Bush may have caught just a scent of burning toast. He's officially "concerned about Iraq". Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

Dead but still earning

I hate it when I earn less than dead people. Forbes has released its list of top earners amongst the deceased and the big new is that Elvis has fallen to number two with a mere 42 million USD to be replaced by Kurt Cobain at a cool 50 million USD. In a surprise, at least to me, Jimi Hendrix didn't make the top ten. Albert Einstein is fifth at 20 million USD. Did he copyright the world relativity?

I'm sure I'll be earning a bundle after I kick off. It's before then that seems to be the problem!

I can't see why this is a problem

The US government seems to be at a loss as to what to do with confessed terrorist (he has admitted to being part of a plot to bomb hotels in Havana which killed an Italian tourist) Luis Posada. The US has refused to extradite him to either Venezuela or Cuba where he is wanted on charges of his involvement in the blowing up of a Cuban airliner that resulted in 73 deaths. The reasons behind this refusal to extradite is that he MAY NOT receive a fair trial and he MAY be tortured. The Americans seem intent on finding him a cosy place to retire but Canada, Mexico, El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala have all declined the offer, perhaps for fear of being invaded, bombed and badly managed for harbouring terrorists. I see two simple solutions for this dilemma, either of which will fit neatly into the current Zeitgeist, and I don't understand why the US has not chosen one of these options.
  • Send Sr. Posada to Guantánamo where he will have many companions, where he WILL NOT receive a trial (fair or otherwise) and where he is LIKELY to be tortured. After they keep telling us how nice the accommodation there is. I'm sure he would enjoy it. I hear that halal food is available should he so desire
  • The US government could release Sr. Posada from custody and then turn a blind eye as either Cuban or Venezuelan intelligence agents extraordinarily render him to parts unknown.
Problem solved. I really don't see how hard this is. Perhaps I should be President.

Blair's poison chalice

Tony Blair's initial popularity was certainly a significant factor in the rise and success of New Labour. It now appears that his strategic mistakes, largely in tying the strings of his pinafore to George Bush's suspenders, may mean the end of New Labour dominance and death to the political ambitions of Gordon Brown. Labour support is now at its lowest level since the last time Maggie won an election. Labour weighs in at just 29% in the latest Guardian / ICM poll (down three points) succession to Tony Blair. The Conservatives now have a 10 point lead with 39% and the Lib Dems are lurking at 22%. It is almost impossible to tell how this translates into a parliamentary system where there is no proportional representation and where a simple plurality, rather than a majority, is all that is required to win a seat in Parliament.

It doesn't look good however and it is hard to see what Gordon Brown, dour Scot that he is, would be able to do to unstitch this once they drag Tony screaming and from number 10.

24 October 2006

Do as we say comes back to haunt (already)

The U.N. special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, is reporting several occurrences of the "we're just doing what the US does" defence when confronting states that abuse human rights.

Mr. Nowak provided no explanation as to why the UN wants the terrorists to win.

Should Mr. Nowak take the quiz at the above link I know he can't do better than me!

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 100%

You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day.... in Guantanamo!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Again with the rice rage

My recent trials and tribulations with American rice, caused by a CIA inspired plot against me, are well documented but the issue is relentless and just will not leave me alone!

Now we find that not only was the USDA complicit in this attempt to poison me but that the UK regulator advised retailers not to withdraw the tainted product in clear violation of the law.

In case anyone is concerned I am getting on quite nicely with Italian brown rice at the present. It is more expensive and I don't like the texture as much as the long grain variety but is BETTER THAN POISON!

Living in the City of Angels

Call me a reactionary but I am willing to reconsider my position on the death penalty so that this offence may be properly dealt with.

Should this alleged dumping of patients on skid row turn out to be true I surely hope that those responsible are prosecuted. If the death penalty is not available I will accept a punishment that has the offenders stripped of all access to funds (cash, bank accounts and credit cards), legally prohibited from any contact with friends or family and dumped on skid row themselves. But not skid row in LA where the climate is ridiculously mild I think somewhere like Chicago or Minneapolis or Fairbanks would be more appropriate. For Christmas.

Enough said.

Wondering who to vote for?

This seems to be a pretty handy data base with lots of information about candidates; their positions, statements etc. Worth a look if you've not yet made your mind up. (Or you could just email me and I could tell you how to vote!)

And if you want to go with the flow or are just not sure of where the mainstream falls on any particular issue (so, like me, you can vote against it) this looks like a pretty handy index to public opinion and polling web sites.

Walking with dinosaurs (the Polish way)

I have previously nominated Poland to be the 51st of the United States. I know they are a bit remote but they are looking more and more promising every day!

Poland's deputy education minister, Miroslaw Orzechowski of the far right League of Polish Families has been quoted as saying "the theory of evolution is a lie, a mistake that we have legalised as a common truth". He also believes that Neanderthal man walks among us today. If we made Poland a state he wouldn't need a visa to get into the country and that would make it easier for him to visit Dinosaur Adventure Land. He could even go for April Fool's Day (or Darwin Day as they like to call it).

He's a natural born Republican I'd say. Is there an executive opening in the "No Child (not) Left Behind" programme?

What a load of bullocks

"I'm stuck in traffic. I don't know how long I'll be. The M5 is closed."

"What caused it?"


"Don't you dare talk to me like that!"

"I said bullocks not bollocks."


There must have been some interesting mobile phone conversations down in the southwest after the M5 motorway had to be closed when a number of bullocks got lose. It can't really have caused that much disruption. Who wants to get from Birmingham to Exeter anyway?

George W. Buch - technocrat

It's good to know that the American President is au fait the latest technology. He tells an interviewer that he's used "the Google" about fifty times since he's been king, I mean President. He said he uses what sounds like Google Earth to look at the ranch to remind him of "where (he'd) like to be sometimes". If it is any consolation George we'd like you to be there too!

I think the most obvious explanation for why he's been on Google so little is that he's probably spending most of his internet time on YouTube trying to find out what the twins are up to!

Guns don't kill people - American football does

The internet has made keeping up with the old home town a hell of a lot easier from this distance. Sometimes however I would rather I didn't know.

For instance I could have been perfectly happy never having readthis story. A bunch of five and six year old kids (should they even be playing American football?) having a quiet match when a father gets into a disagreement with the coach of his son's side and pulls a gun. Not just any old gun either. A .357 magnum.

The reporter tells what we could never imagine for ourselves; that after shouts of "gun - gun" the "game dissolved into chaos". (With incisive analysis like this I don't know why she isn't on the world desk at the NY Times!)

The referee (who was subsequently arrested for assault) got the players off the pitch safely and later was quoted as saying:

"Football pads don't stop bullets. They're not made for it"

What were they thinking? The players should have been provided with school books instead!

"Sweetheart have you seen Gran's ashes anywhere?"

Charity shops are quite common on British high streets. Apparently some people's idea of what makes an appropriate donation are, well, a bit odd.

The pet charity PDSA has been keeping track of some of the more unusual items that show up in bin liners outside their doors. These include:

  • a willy warmer (not offered for sale)
  • handcuffs
  • a blow-up doll (which they sold for five quid - no mention of whether it was new or used)
  • a voodoo doll with pins (not offered for sale)
  • elephant dung (submitted for the Turner Prize but that had already been done)
  • an urn complete with ashes ("Grandma?")
  • two replica handguns (turned over to the police - yes Americans - replica guns are illegal here too!)

I think I'll just pop out to the Oxfam shop and see what is on offer.

"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press"

For those of you who don't recognise the above words they come from the first amendment to the US constitution. Whether or not they are still operable is certainly open to question.

Reporters sans frontières have issued their annual assessment of press freedom for 2006 and it is not good news for Americans. The good all USA falls to 53rd in the table (down 9 from last year) slipping behind such beacons of liberty as Mozambique, the Dominican Republic and Panama. The UK is a respectable joint 27th with Lithuania.

The report cites the arrest and imprisonment of journalists and bloggers in the mainland US who refused to name sources as well as the detention of Sudanese national Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, at Guantánamo Bay Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein who is being held by American authorities in Iraq.

Read more here.

We now pause for a public service announcement from Mother Earth

I've said it before and I'm sure I will say it again. We cannot address climate change and other ecological issues without some, probably significant, life style change in the west. The World Wildlife Fund and the Global Footprint Network have released an in depth analysis of world wide resource consumption including projections into the future. If current trends continue in less than fifty years (2050) we will be consuming twice what the planet can reasonably replenish. In effect we will spend half the year in an ecological deficit.

The analysis includes a number of alternate methods to address the situation, not all of them are totally distasteful. The later we leave it the worse it will be. We need to think about our lives and how we live them NOW. Each of us has a role to play. It is also painfully clear that Holy Grail of "the market" will not, indeed cannot, provide sufficiently for the changes that all of us will be required to make at some point in the next fifty years.

The report (PDF) can be downloaded here. Happy reading.

Halloween is coming...

...and it looks like some of the £120 million that the UK is going to spend on it will go towards fancy (un)dress. Walking past the local Ann Summers (marginally NSF) shop this lunchtime I noticed that the high street retailer of lingerie, sex toys (there was also a display for the RampantRabbit - "best orgasm ever!") and sundry erotica has done up their window in a Halloween theme. There was the Naughty Nurse, the Devil Woman and that old standby, the French Maid. Alas nothing for the ladies.

A call to arms (so to speak)

I think of Jimmy Carter as the best ex-President America has ever had. He's worked hard at any number of big profile issues and smaller profile charities and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. I know the right wing hate him but I consider that an endorsement.

I am therefore extremely disappointed not to see his name attached to this appeals for an arms trade treaty signed by fifteen other laureates. They call for a treaty covering at least the following points:

All international arms transfers should be authorized by a recognized State and carried out in accordance with national laws and procedures that reflect, at the very least, the obligations incumbent on States under international law.

No State should authorize international arms transfers that violate the specific obligations incumbent upon it under international law with regard to arms.

No State should authorize international arms transfers if they are, or may be, used to violate international law.

States must take account of factors such as the probable use to which arms will be put before authorizing transfers.

States should submit annual national reports on arms transfers to an international registry.

States should agree common standards for setting up specific control mechanisms.

Did they not ask him? Does he disagree with the provisions? He's previously endorsed the idea.

Coming soon to a consulate near you!

The British Embassy in Dublin has announced that it will begin hosting civil partnership ceremonies for same sex couples. Neither marriage nor civil partnerships are available as an option for gay couples in the Irish Republic so this will be the only means of tying the know available to couples in Eire. The only restriction is that one of the partners must be a British citizen.

Surely it can only be a matter of time before they start offering this service elsewhere including the US. British embassies and / or consulates in America are located in Washington DC, Boston, New York, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Miami and Orlando. Shame there isn't one in Topeka. I'm sure that the good Reverend Phelps would relish the challange!

Reengineering Mark Foley

I think I may have predicted this. The group PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays) has issued a statement saying that what Mark Foley needs is not treatment for alcohol abuse but sexual preference repair! According to Regina Griggs of PFOX ex-Congressman Foley shouldn't listen to those who "oppose the message of hope for overcoming unwanted same-sex attractions by denying the facts that ex-gays do exist and that change is possible. We want Mr. Foley to know that help is available, since he will not hear it from anyone in his circles."

It is now only a matter of time before Mr. Foley hears their call, heeds it and is healed. He can then make a triumphant return as the first openly ex-gay member of Congress! Come on Mark. I know they're just waiting to hear from you!

Not so fucking smart now, eh Jeffrey

According to legend when former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was interviewed for Harvard Business School and he was asked if he was smart he replied: "I'm fucking smart". His legendary intelligence seemed to ebb a bit during his trial when he claimed he wasn't smart enough to pull off what he was accused of. In his own words he was, however, "absolutely innocent".

The jury didn't agree. Yesterday he was sentenced to twenty four well deserved years. He also has to forfeit around 45 million USD that will be distributed to his victims. (If his wife is lucky he'll die before his appeal is completed and she'll get to keep the money just like poor little Linda "We've Lost Everything" Lay.) Reaction to the sentence was mixed; the twenty four years being the second longest issued for white collar crime (Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom fame holds that honour). Sam Buell, a former Enron prosecutor told the Guardian:

"Maybe the pendulum has swung too far now in the opposite direction," he told the Guardian. "When you start talking about 24 years for white-collar fraud, there's not a lot of room above that for violent crime."

I think Mr. Buell is wrong in that regard. The impact of this crime, the ruination of the finances of tens of thousands of innocent people, goes far beyond the impact of most crimes of violence and therefore is worthy of a sentence of this duration or longer. One wonders if Mr. Buell expresses the same sentiments every time someone gets life imprisonment for shoplifting or possession of a couple of joints under the absurd and abusive three strikes laws.

In any case Jeffrey we won't miss ya!

An Iraqi parrot

You learn something everyday. I wouldn't have thought that Iraq was an appropriate environment for parrots (I'm thinking lush and tropical) until I stumbled on this quote from Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih.

"I do believe there is no option for the international community to cut and run. The fate of Iraq is vital to the future of the Middle East and the world order."

I wonder where he picked that up. For all I know "cut and run" is an everyday idiom in Arabic. Probably not though.

Headline confusion

I hadn't finished my coffee this morning when I saw this headline

Outspoken rightwinger to join Israeli coalition - Lieberman appointment echoes public shift to right

so you can forgive me for thinking that "Holy" Joe had finally gone right off the rails, abandoned the Republicans as well as the Democrats and become the deputy Prime Minister of Israel.

Having finished my coffee I finished reading the article I found that it was another Lieberman altogether. At least it does point Senator Lieberman in the direction of a possible career change should the Senate gig not work out.

To help nudge Joe on his way remember there's still time to donate to Ned Lamont.

What John Birch told George Bush

Who thought the day would ever come. I agree with the John Birch Society (or do they agree with me?)! It doesn't even seem to be that we have reached the same conclusion based on different reasoning. (Do you think they will send me "a secret membership card" now?)

I am going to go lie down. I'm really not feeling all that well!

Calling time on faith schools

It looks as though the British government is on to a loser with its current proposals surrounding the issue of faith schools in the public sector.

Unlike the US where separation of church and state are guaranteed in the bill of rights, although there are many who don't believe this and would like to do something about it, Britain has an official religion (Church of England), bishops sit in the House of Lords and the Queen is the official head of the church. Additionally schools operated by religious organisations make up a material portion of the government school system. The state pays 85% of capital costs and 100% of staff costs so that public funds are effectively financing religious education. These schools may not select by ability they are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religious belief (generally of the parents). As this often equates to selection by the back door their results are sometimes better other local state schools and parents have been known to go to extraordinary lengths (atheists attending church etc) to get their kids into these schools.

At the primary school level especially these schools may represent a dominant force in any particular area. The schools are predominately Christian (Church of England and Roman Catholic) but others faiths including Judaism, Islam and Sikhism are represented. The government has actually been pushing for more rather than less of these schools with the hope of expanding the base into other faiths.

Now the government seems to be trying to head in every direction with proposals that would allow these schools to discriminate in the hiring of support staff while at the same time insisting that faith schools must begin to accept a minimum proportion of their student body from other faiths.

No one seems to be happy. The government is scrambling to try and keep everyone happy.

I have the answer. End the participation of religious schools in the public sector. I can hear the protests now. "He wants to ban religious school!!" No I don't. I just wish to remove them from direct state funding.

Teaching religion is not the business of the state. It is the role of the family. Why is it that those who generally most object to government interference of any sort seem to be those who always want to inject religion into education? In my thinking, after basic skills such as literacy and numeracy, the most important thing that schools have to teach is the ability to think critically, to question and to challenge authority. This exactly what a religious school is unlikely to do.

I fear my quest is in vain, in Britain at least, as those desirous of greater religious education, although probably much less numerous, are much more committed than those who oppose it. This may change however when the Scientologists decide to get in on the act. Even when I find someone who agrees with me it is usually for the wrong reason (i.e. Christian schools are OK but Muslim schools are dangerous).

Rabbiting away to extinction

There is bad news for men who like to rabbit away on their mobile phones. You're damaging your sperm. The microwaves from your phone may be reducing the quality of your little soldiers (what is the unit of measure for sperm quality - the Spunk?) by by up to fifty percent. So gents think twice before you make that next call.

23 October 2006

"Man on Dog" Ricky sends me a letter!

Via my good friends at News Max (you have to sign up for their alerts if you want to be able to log in and annoy them occasionally) I received an email today from US Senator Rick Santorum (R - I don't live in PA anymore). I reproduce it in its entirety (with snarky comments slipped in when I can't resist) as I'm sure he wouldn't mind.

Dear Fellow Conservative (he doesn't know any better!),

I have to ask you a very important question that affects you and your family: Why on earth is a U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania so important to you and families across America?

Here's why. If you want to keep your taxes low, defeat the terrorist threat to our freedom, and restore sanity to our judicial system (he's going to do all this single handed after not having done it in the past six years?) by appointing judges who won’t re-write the Constitution every chance they get then my victory in Pennsylvania will help protect you and your family from the radical left seeking to seize control of the United States Senate this November.

Contribute Today! (Aha! Now we really know why he wants to talk to us!)

I have to ask for your support today because the radical left (Hey! He mentioned me! I'm famous!), more than anything, wants to control the Senate and they know my race holds the key(What race is he? I thought he was white? Maybe I won't vote for him after all.).

Is that important to you? I believe it is. If you think that four years of steady economic growth hasn't been important to our country if you don't want a repeat of Bill Clinton’s massive tax hikes (or his eight years of unprecedented growth)and you don't like the idea of any of our troops in harms way, but you know in your heart that we cannot cut and run from Iraq then you understand fully why I must be re-elected in November (Sorry Ricky - I still don't get it!). All of this, plus the Supreme Court nominees and other judicial nominees are at stake, truly at risk if Republicans lose our Senate Majority.

Contribute Today! (In case you forgot!)

There is little argument that we've got to put the breaks on spending. Even given the war or terror, the horrific hurricane season we experienced, and homeland security costs, the buck needs to stop (and the buck WILL STOP when you're unemployed!).

And we will - without sacrificing our national security or your economic well-being. We can and must keep our economy growing and continue to create more jobs. I assure you, that won't happen if the Democrats takeover Congress. Fiscal restraint (I'll bet he had to look that up first!) or winning the war on terror simply isn’t on their agenda. In fact, I don't really think they have an agenda. My opponent - under the direction of the liberals who control his party - simply attacks me (please - make him stop!).

Look, I can take it when they attack me. I chose a life of public service and I know that sometimes it comes with the territory. But believe me, it's not easy to see your family subjected to hateful accusations and ridicule, all because the Democratic Party wants to defeat me by whatever means it can. Through it all I've maintained my dignity (Ha! Ha! Good one Rick.). My only response has been to ask my opponent for his positions on the war, homeland security, Social Security reform, tax reform, tax cuts, tax hikes, economic growth, Medicare reform and his answer? Silence. No plans. No solutions. No answers. Just more attacks, through such characters as Al Gore, John Edwards, John Kerry and, of course, Howard Dean.
It couldn't be any plainer. The Democrats on the left want a rubber-stamp (Can't we just have yours when you're done with it?)for the ultra-liberal policies they want to inflict on you and your family.

And the only sure, true way I have of countering the left’s onslaught is to take my message straight to the voters and by-pass the media. Only by using television, radio, newspapers, websites, billboards - every media possible, really - will I be able to win this election.

Will you help me today (I'm broke and the party won't give me any money!)? I'm asking you for a contribution of $25, $35, $50, $100, or even $1,000 if possible to Santorum 2006.

I truly appreciate all you've done for our party because it does make a difference. Thank you and may God bless you and your family.

Rick Santorum
United States Senator

P.S. I hope you see how my Senate race really will have an impact on the direction our precious America takes. Your taxes, your security, the sovereignty of our nation all are at stake. So I'm asking you, a dedicated Republican, to help me today. If you can make a contribution of $25, $35, $50, $100 or even $1,000 today it would be a tremendous lift for us. Thank you

I'm sure you are all rushing off to find your cheque books even as we speak. Help us save this great American hero from the ignominy of having to work for living (as a lobbyist). Give now!

Science as tackling dummy

A new magazine appears on the publishing horizon, Salvo, promising to "blast holes in scientific naturalism" and marvel at "the intricate design of the universe" whilst "promoting life in a culture of death". Unfortunately I can't subscribe over the internet as I don't live in the US and don't want to ring them. (They probably use an Indian call centre where the staff are too busy having sex to handle my call.) Damn! Now I'll never know what I'm missing.

Ethical investing

If you have investments and are concerned about your money falling into the hands of evil, ravenous capitalist running dogs you may find this to be a valuable resource.

Ethnic cleansing on the West Bank

Is there any other term one could apply to this?

Enayeh Samara was born on the West Bank, is married to a west bank resident and has lived on the West Bank for thirty years. As a US citizen the Israeli government will not give her a residence permit so she has had to leave the West Bank every ninety days to renew her tourist visa (about one hundred and twenty times!). Five months ago the Israelis refused her tourist visa and she had to leave her home and husband behind to live with her sister in Chicago.

For some reason these people seem to about to get residency permits even though their settlements are illegal under Israeli and international law. Maybe they should build a fence to keep THEM out!